Film Review: I, Frankenstein 3D

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 29 July 2014.

I, try to make an effort to support the Australian film industry. In the case of I, Frankenstein, it’s more like an overseas production that just happened to be shot in Melbourne. Sure, besides import stars Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy, the production employed 500 locals including director Stuart Beattie, but from a creative perspective, it’s like trying to claim Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith as Australian movies. There’s a big difference between an Australian film and one that’s simply shot in Australia.

I, Frankenstein is based on a graphic novel and comes from the mind of Kevin Grevioux, creator of the Underworld franchise, except this time, it’s Demons versus Gargoyles. There was some talk of a crossover between the two worlds but it may have been a little difficult to explain the presence of Bill Nighy as the antagonist in both films, but as different characters.

Charles Wessex (Nighy) is the leader of the Demons, bent on finding the secret of reanimating human corpses so that the demon souls of the underworld (not that Underworld) can return to earth. His target is Adam (Eckhart) the two hundred year old living result of a successful experiment by one Victor Frankenstein. Siding with the good Gargoyles and their queen (Miranda Otto), Adam fights for the future of, um, Melbourne alongside the warrior (Jai Courtney) and beautiful scientist, in a Tara Reid kinda way, Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski).

Post-converted into 3D, the action scenes are competent but nothing new. To keep the blood letting to a minimum, the Demons explode into flame when destroyed. No green screen in Melbourne was safe during the production, with many, many CGI heavy scenes. Only a few physical landmarks are recognisable in the final product, with the National Gallery of Victoria doubling for Central Station. Otherwise, it’s the same dark european type gothic city as depicted so often in these types of films.

Plot holes abound, from the sublime (the bizarre title – I guess Frankenstein is his surname) to the ridiculous (Frankenstein’s two hundred year old diary is in mint condition). Bad guys fully explain their devious plans to a temporarily subdued Adam, sixties Batman style. The human population don’t appear to notice the explosions and chaos around them.

The serious performances from the cast don’t match the silliness of the film. Nighy is at his scenery chewing best. Eckhart and Courtney growl their dialogue. Otto looks bored. Both Aden Young and Bruce Spence are wasted in cameo roles. Strahovski is radiant but I like everything she does.

The most successful element of the film is the art design. The gothic towers, industrial battlegrounds and derelict buildings are quite beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s all been done before.

With a disappointing box office return, don’t expect any sequels. I, am OK with that.

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Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 14:59  Leave a Comment  
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Film Reviews: The Maze Runner & Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For

These reviews were originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 30 September 2014.

Film Review: The Maze Runner

Based on yet another young adult fiction book series that you will never read, The Maze Runner initially shows promise. Within seconds, the audience is thrust into the action as our amnesiac protagonist arrives via elevator at “The Glade”. We share his disorientation as he attempts to remember who he is, establish his place within the primitive society developed by his fellow inmates and discover why he has been dropped into the middle of a giant labyrinth.

I had high hopes for this film. Sure, I prefer my labyrinths with Muppets, Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie (in a fright wig) but the premise intrigued me. Unfortunately, what first time feature director Wes Ball delivers is a fun ride which ultimately frustrates.

This truly is a teen action film by numbers. We have a dystopian future where unprepared teens are thrown into a deadly high concept arena as part of some nefarious conspiracy. Sound familiar?

As the lead, Dylan O’Brien (TV’s Teen Wolf) is appealing but certainly does have the charisma that Jennifer Lawrence radiates in The Hunger Games franchise. Actor on the rise, Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, Son of Rambow) impresses as the alpha male of the group. In a testosterone heavy cast, lone female castaway Kaya Scodelario (TV’s Skins) does her best with an underwritten role.

The film hits its stride once we leave The Glade (think Lord of the Flies meets Peter Pan’s Lost Boys meets an all male summer camp) and start exploring the deadly titular labyrinth. The set designs are inspired, as are the deadly spider-like Grievers which roam the maze.

By the last act, it becomes clear that no resolution will be given to any plot strands. The credits roll on a cliffhanger and you’ll leave the cinema with nothing but questions and a slightly bad taste in your mouth.

Film Review: Sin City : A Dame to Kill For

From the “sequels that no-one asked for” department comes the follow-up to the visually stunning and highly original Sin City (2005). By virtue of being more of the same, co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have managed to concoct three more graphic novel-inspired noir tales that now have little impact from a visual style perspective. And also now in pointless 3D.

The majority of the original cast return for this outing, including Mickey Rourke as the overcoat wearing killer Marv. Well received as a supporting character in the original, gruff tough guy Marv is now a central character, which for me is now a case of too much of a good thing. Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson and Jessica Alba reprise their roles, joining newcomers Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin and a very naked Eva Green.

The bullets fly and the white blood flows thick. Once you become accustomed (or re-accustomed) to the visuals, it’s just a matter of whether you appreciate the very deliberate storytelling style of the film. I didn’t. I just felt completely disconnected from what was happening on the screen. Maybe that is the desired effect.

Strangely released during the school holidays, this particularly non-kid friendly film is likely to sink without a trace at the box office. Wait for the DVD, or even better still, read the graphic novel.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 14:28  Leave a Comment  
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Film Review: Pompeii

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 8th April 2014.

Pompeii is the latest 3D action epic from English director Paul W. S. Anderson. Not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, The Master, Boogie Nights) who is a director of repute with a body of brilliantly crafted motion pictures, Anderson is generally a director of disposable eye candy with a preference for exploding bodies, usually of the zombie kind.

Milo (Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington) is a slave forced to become a gladiator in Pompeii, where he attracts the eye of Cassia (Australian actress Emily Browning), the daughter of the city’s ruler Severus (Jared Harris). Unfortunately, Cassia is betrothed to the Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). As the battle for her heart becomes physical, proceedings are interrupted by a natural disaster, namely the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Does this plot sound familiar? Yep, it’s the storyline from Titanic, ripped off wholesale and transplanted to sword and sandal land. Where James Cameron’s epic benefitted from strong performances from a talented cast, in particular the magnetic Kate Winslet and star on the rise Leonardo DiCaprio (I can’t really explain Billy Zane), Pompeii suffers from a uneven lineup of thespians ranging from emerging star Harington (treading water in a role not far removed at all from his character in Game of Thrones) to the scenery chewing antics of Sutherland (who is easily next in line to replace his father Donald Sutherland as cinema’s bad guy de jour). Even the usually reliable Browning, who shone in the mediocre Sucker Punch and the arduous Sleeping Beauty, can do little but look concerned.

Pompeii is director Anderson’s fourth foray into using 3D cameras (as opposed to post- production rendering) which I found surprising as the film rarely popped on the screen and reminded me of the disastrous 3D conversion of Clash of the Titans. Besides a singular moment when the guy next to me and I ducked to avoid a flying log, the visuals lacked a depth of field and I pretty soon forgot that I was watching a 3D movie. Lots and lots of CGI ash falling in 3D is hardly a reason to force me to wear those annoying glasses for ninety minutes.

Pompeii has flopped at the US box office so far with a meagre $10 million taking on its first weekend. With a $100 million budget to recoup, plus marketing expenses, German production house Constantin Film may well have a disaster (about a disaster) on its hands.

With the majority of the cast reduced to the famous death casts that can be found in museums (although I understand that these were actually produced by injecting plaster into the spaces left by decomposing bodies but hey, it’s a Paul W. S. Anderson film) and the credits rolling, I left the cinema with a feeling of positivity and hope. At least there can’t be a sequel.

Film Reviews: IMAX Great White Shark 3D and Hidden Universe 3D

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 21st January 2014.

The IMAX format continues to grow in popularity with filmmakers. More and more mainstream features are being presented on the eye popping huge screen, including the latest chapter of The Hobbit trilogy. Darling Harbour is the home to the world’s largest IMAX screen and whilst the evening is saved for the blockbusters, by day it remains the domain of tourists and school groups, drawn to the gargantuan cinema and its short form documentaries.

Mostly focusing on nature and history, these cinematic attractions pose a problems for a film reviewer. They are definitely well crafted movies but are they the drawcard or simply fodder to present to tourists so they can experience IMAX on the hour? I checked out the latest two IMAX documentaries and the good news is that they both offer considerable bang for your buck. Or if you are taking your whole family, quite a few bucks.

From the marketing material, I fully expected Great White Shark 3D to be a gorefest of huge teeth and helpless sea lions. Now I realise that you are more likely to be killed reading this review than eaten by a shark but that didn’t stop me from feeling a little anxious about man eaters on the big screen in 3D. Damn you Steven Spielberg.

Narrated by the incomparable Bill Nighy, GWS3D is an entertaining and beautifully shot doco which sets out to change our attitudes towards the great white shark. Jumping across numerous locations which are home to our fishy friends, the film features scientists and activists who are working to ensure that the shark stays off the endangered species list (and out of shark fin soup).

From tour operators in South Africa who attract them to their boats so tourists can have close encounters in steel cages (dubious in my books – surely this is only teaching the great white that humans equal dinner) to free divers who simply tag the predators in the open water off the Mexican coast (OK, so the cage people have a point), we get a glimpse into the lives of those dedicated to unravelling the mysteries of the great white shark.

GWS3D was surprisingly bloodless with a cute sea lion becoming a buffet lunch scene only being hinted at. Instead, the money shot was footage of a wooden sea lion lure being attacked from below by a gigantic shark leaping out of the water. In slow motion, the perfect killing machine soars through the air. Perhaps the makers of Sharknado were onto something.


Hidden Universe 3D, an Australian production, is a much drier feature (pardon the pun). The film focuses on deep space astronomers who venture out to the Atacama desert in Chile to peer into the universe using the European Southern Observatory’s VLT (that’s the Very Large Telescope for the non-astronomers out there).

Narrated by actress Miranda Richardson, I could take or leave the human storyline component. Instead, I would have been more than happy to just sit back and enjoy 45 minutes of the beautifully 3D rendered pictures of planets, nebulas, moons and super luchadore midgets (I may have made that last one up). Those scenes are fantastic. It’s like being immersed in the opening credit sequence of Star Trek, which in my book is not a bad thing.

Great White Shark 3D and Hidden Universe 3D are now playing at IMAX Darling Harbour.

Deluxe Movie Packaging: same movie, bigger box

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 19th November 2013.    

Many moons ago, I spent a North American summer working as the World’s Oldest Camp Counsellor™. It was a rich kids’ camp and I will never forget parental unit visiting day. One of the campers in my cabin was handed a brand new music CD as a gift. He immediately took the disc out to play the inevitably horrible music contained within, throwing the case and liner notes in the bin, or trash in this instance. As a music collector I was shocked. Although the music is, obviously, the most important element, I love having my CDs stored in their cases on my bookshelf. Besides, how on earth would he know the names of the songs?

Fast forward to today and music CDs are practically an endangered species. However, when it comes to movies, the industry has shifted to the opposite extreme. Perusing the shelves at my favourite non-specific movie retailer and their online store on the weekend, it was hard not to notice that the emphasis is now on the packaging, not the film. Why buy just the film on your preferred format? You need to shell out the extra bucks for a fancy box too.

Here are my favourite deluxe editions that I am sure will be on many a Christmas wish list.

et

Remember everyone’s favourite alien? No, not Lady Gaga, I’m referring to E.T. Steven Spielberg’s sublime masterpiece hit shelves last year in beautiful high definition blu-ray to celebrate its 30th anniversary.  The movie on blu-ray can be picked up for a reasonable $13, but why stop there? For just an extra $150 you can get the film with a 26cm “collectible” replica of E.T.’s spaceship complete with flashing lights, music and moving parts. That’s a very expensive box. I’m sure a real spaceship wouldn’t cost much more. Maybe Clive Palmer will build me one if I ask nicely.

i robot

If more redundant films are your thing, how about I, Robot? Recently released in 3D (I’m not sure why), the disc will set you back about $30. For $120 more, you can buy the deluxe gift set which includes a full scale robot head bust. For that price, I don’t think anyone is getting a gift, except the film distributor. Forgettable film, unforgettable packaging…

breaking-bad-series-on-blu-ray

Everyone seems to love Breaking Bad at the moment. Having recently completed a brilliant 5 season run, the complete series will be released later this month on blu-ray for around $150.  Add an extra $85 and you can get your hands on the very same discs, stored in a replica money barrel, as well as a commemorative coin and apron. What, no replica crystal meth too?

The X-Men franchise has vacuumed up over $1 billion worldwide. This Christmas, you can add to this total by purchasing the Adamantium Collection. That’s six discs (5 of them already available as budget titles) stored in a weird looking stand which features a replica of Wolverine’s bladed fist for $170. Please note that only right handed versions are available. I don’t know about you, but I have enough trouble keeping my discs scratch free without storing them in a box with claws.

predator3D-1024x905

I probably should mention the Predator 3D deluxe edition which comes with a predator’s head and the Under the Dome limited edition set with the discs stored (wait for it) under a dome. For true fans of the show, the dome should be sealed so you can’t open it.

under_the_dome_limited_collectors_edition

As a cinephile, I’m all about the films, not the elaborate packaging. I’m (mostly) with the summer camp kid on this one. Just give me the movie in a boring old case. The film should take me to other places and worlds, not the box.

Film Review: World War Z

This review was originally published on The Orange Post on 23rd June 2013.

Marc Forster’s World War Z (pronounced zee not zed) has more in common with 28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later than the George A. Romero series of zombie flicks. These Z zombies can run, fast. They also leap and stack on top of themselves en masse to climb walls, like a heaving ant nest or a jenga tower. I’m not sure why becoming one of the undead transforms you into a super athlete. All I know is that with my lack of sporting prowess, I’d be a very hungry zombie.

Brad Pitt, complete with foppish nineties hairdo, is a retired UN investigator. When a mystery contagion outbreak occurs, turning millions worldwide into zombies, Pitt’s Gerry Lane must get his family to safety before traversing the planet (well, Korea, Israel and Wales) in search of the origin of the epidemic.

World War Z’s source material is the title of the novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel). Practically nothing of the book, which is written in an oral history style as told by multiple survivors, has made it into the screenplay of this troubled production. I’m not precious about these things. Look forward to a compendium of my movie reviews to be published under the title Dead Serious: Attack of the Zombies. Hey Hollywood! Buy the rights, use the title only, do what you like.

World War Z had a difficult gestation.  The original release date was pushed back to allow a seven week reshoot of the rewritten final third of the film in Budapest. Star Pitt also reportedly clashed with director Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace).

The good news is that the final product hangs together nicely. The thrill ride starts from the first moments of the film and doesn’t let off until the end credits roll. The action is unrelenting and doesn’t stop for anything, including character development. This is Pitt’s film. Supporting characters, such as James Badge Dale’s Captain Speke, appear briefly and are then quickly dispatched. At best, Pitt’s character can be described as an inquisitive investigator who does some investigating.

The zombies in World War Z are mostly of the CGI variety with little attention given to them as individuals. I would have liked just a little subplot involving the ramifications to those left behind when a loved one is turned. In this film, it is literally one bite, some convulsions and twelve seconds later you are one of the running dead, and on with the show.

Strangely, these zombies only seem interested in biting the living, not eating them. The final set piece of the film, set in a laboratory in Wales, takes a tonal shift from the earlier spectacles in the US and Israel. An effective cat and mouse style set piece (that would be one mouse and tens of zombified cats) with locked doors, long corridors and glass cubicles, it is only after the film ends that you realise that it makes little sense. Why are the zombies so intent on chasing the living down, if only to bite them?

On further thought, this would be pretty much the same film if you replaced the zombies with rabid bats, sparkly vampires, teen werewolves or killer tomatoes. The film isn’t so much about the undead, but rather how Brad Pitt saves the world from catastrophe.

Leave your brains at the door (the zombies aren’t interested in them anyway) and enjoy this action packed, not very scary action thriller. I would recommend experiencing World War Z in 2D. I cannot recall a single moment which would have been improved by the extra dimension, or annoying glasses.

Published in: on June 30, 2013 at 16:15  Leave a Comment  
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Film Review: The Great Gatsby (old sport)

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 29th May 2013.

I must profess to not having read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby recently, but I’m pretty sure that I have just seen the pop up book. Just like Leonardo DiCaprio’s mysterious Jay Gatsby knows how to throw a wild party, Baz Luhrmann certainly knows how to film one. Within minutes of the opening credits, we’re back to the hyper reality already established in Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge:  beautiful people, rapid edits, loud out-of-era music, rapid edits, champagne and partygoers jumping into swimming pools. Did I mention the rapid edits? Granted, they aren’t as headache inducing as in Moulin Rouge but there were moments where all I wanted was to take in this visual feast. Luhrmann clearly has an eye for beauty and detail, so why does he insist on ensuring that the lens doesn’t stay on anything long enough to enjoy it?

Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway arrives in New York City following his service in World War I and rents a house in West Egg, Long Island, right next to the Gatsby Mansion. Gatsby? Who Gatsby? What Gatsby? Throughout the first third of the film, DiCaprio’s enigmatic millionaire is consistently referred to as a mystery man. Although the host of elaborate parties, no-one knows what Gatsby looks like. Once Nick is invited to a party and becomes Gatsby’s “old sport”, this subplot is thrown out with several visual references to framed pictures of the “great” one adorning his mansion walls. The climax of the film also relies on a positive identification that shouldn’t have been possible.

Gatsby had a relationship with Carraway’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) before he was sent to war. Unfortunately Daisy is now unhappily married to the womanising Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). To win back his old flame, Gatsby has purchased the mansion across the bay from the Buchanan’s residence in East Egg, as you do. Luhrmann gleefully utilises CGI sweeping shots over the water to remind us of the futility of their love. Either that, or Baz wants to subtly hammer home the fact that The Great Gatsby is shot in 3D. To reunite with his former love, Gatsby throws lavish parties in the hope that she will somehow attend. He also uses Carroway’s familial connections to arrange a reunion. I’m not entirely sure how Gatsby knew that Nick was related to Daisy, but who cares, THE GREAT GATSBY IS SHOT IN 3D.

All of the lead performances are solid. DiCaprio has the charisma to overcome a script that has him say “old sport” too many times. Maguire is appealing despite a weak bookend subplot which undermines his character and does nothing to drive the plot forwards. Mulligan is radiant as Daisy, and Edgerton is appropriately nasty as the moustache twirling villain. Poor Isla Fisher and the talented Jason Clarke are sidelined in small supporting roles. Keep an eye out also for some of our most highly regarded actors in thankless tiny character parts. You can play the “Where’s Wally? The Great Gatsby edition” by looking out for Vince Colosimo, Steve Bisley, Max Cullen and Jack Thompson.

The Great Gatsby is a case of style over substance. Luhrmann’s Gatsby hyper world is certainly an exciting place to visit but he has failed to capture F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic on film. Instead he’s created the theme park ride of the book.

Published in: on May 28, 2013 at 19:28  Leave a Comment  
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Film Review: Iron Man 3

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 30th April 2013.

Avengers assemble again…in an orderly fashion over the next two years!! Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has begun in earnest with the first of four superhero movies rolling out of the Walt Disney Pictures factory this past week. Iron Man 3 will be followed in October by Thor: The Dark World. Next we have Captain America: The Winter Soldier in April next year, then Guardian of the Galaxy in August, before the superhero mothership mark 2, otherwise known as The Avengers 2, lands on May 1 2015.

The good news is that Iron Man 3 maintains the fun quotient set by its predecessors and isn’t a letdown following the smashingly brilliant geekout that was The Avengers. The storyline picks up directly after the Chitauri invasion of New York and finds Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) unable to sleep following his near death experience free falling from the alien portal. To keep busy, he has designed a further 35 armours, as you do, and is experimenting with a mind-controlled version (Mark 42 for the nerds). A mysterious terrorist attack masterminded by The Mandarin brings Stark back into action as he confronts a new enemy and his own demons.

The challenge for new director to the franchise Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) was finding a villain menacing enough to follow an evil alien race. To his credit, he manages to find two, in Ben Kingsley’s The Mandarin and Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian. Kingsley is joyously over the top (and very non-Asian) in a role reminiscent of his turn as The Hood in the terrible Thunderbirds movie. Pearce also seems to be carving a niche for himself in the movie villains department with yet another crazy moustache twirling bad guy, following a similar role in last year’s Lawless.

Alongside the dependable RDJ, Don Cheadle and Gwyneth Paltrow return as James Rhodes and Pepper Potts, respectively. Original franchise director Jon Favreau also reappears briefly as newly appointed Stark Head of Security, Happy Hogan. It’s a testament to the quality of the film, and the whole Marvel Universe franchise generally, that a balance has been found in the storytelling which allows each major character to have their moment in the spotlight and not get lost in a plethora of villains and minor characters.

As with most major Hollywood tentpole releases, Iron Man 3 is available in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX versions. Filmed in 2D and post-converted, the movie is not a remarkable 3D experience and after a few minutes I forgot about it altogether.

Tony Stark is armour free for the middle third of the film, and it was a refreshing contrast to enjoy a superhero using his brains rather than his brawn, or his powered suit of high tech weaponry in this case. Of course, fans of mega-armoured suit battles aboard oil rigs will particularly enjoy the finale. A rescue of multiple passengers falling from a crippled Air Force One is also exhilarating.

Make sure you stay right to the end of the credits for the traditional Marvel Movie Universe bonus scene. It’s a corker.

A healthy blend of action, humour and melodrama, set in a comfortable, now familiar universe, makes Iron Man 3 a winner in the superhero stakes.

Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 17:51  Leave a Comment  
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4DX: Not the future of cinema

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th February 2013.

4dx logo

As the resident cinephile for the CWD, the question I’m most often asked is, “What’s your name again?” The second most often asked question is, “Is 3D the future of cinema?” My answer to that is a resounding no. 3D cinema is a gimmick. A pointless, headache inducing gimmick if utilised badly. Take Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans or Thor, for example. An impressive gimmick if used correctly in films such as Life of Pi, Hugo and Avatar, but a gimmick nonetheless.

A question that I wished someone would ask me is, “What’s not the future of cinema?” I actually have an answer to that one. It’s definitely not 4DX.

4dx cinema

At the moment, there are only a few 4DX equipped cinemas in the world, and the closest one to Australia is located at the Paragon Cineplex inside the gigantic Siam Paragon shopping centre in Bangkok. On a recent visit to Thailand, I had the opportunity to try out 4DX, and the bad news is that it’s more of a theme park attraction than an immersive cinema experience.

The 4DX cinema consists of hydraulic motion chairs with 3 degrees of freedom. They pitch, roll and heave along with the action on the screen. Built into the seats are air jets that simulate bullets whizzing above and beside your face. There are also jets that replicate splashes by spraying water in your face. Back and leg ticklers kneed you from inside the seat. A bass shaker vibrates your backside. Speakers placed in the headrest scream into your ears. But wait, there’s more.

4DX

There are fans installed in the roof to hit you with gusts of wind. Foggers fill the cinema with smoke. Fragrances are released to enhance the emotions and moods portrayed on the screen. There are bubbles for no particular reason at all. And did I mention that the films are in 3D too?

My 4DX movie was Upside Down, starring Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) and Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe), which is yet to receive a release date in Australia. This fantasy romance is set on twin planets which share the same atmosphere, resulting in two worlds with opposing gravities. Sturgess’s Adam falls in love with Dunst’s Eden. The only problem is that she lives in the world above him, and it’s upside down. Chaos (and some woeful physics) occurs.

Featured films are not generally rendered into 4DX by the filmmakers or film studios. The seat movements and other effects are programmed by the South Korean company which developed the technology. This results in a bizarre experience where the in-house special effects are more about showing off the capabilities of the format than enhancing the storyline.

4dx

My seat moved around at times with no regard to what was happening on the screen. During a scene set high on a mountain, the foggers filled the room with smoke. This certainly enhanced the cloudy atmosphere portrayed on the silver screen. Unfortunately, all I could see was smoke and no screen.

Upside Down featured lots of outdoor scenes. For some reason, the 4DX programmers decided that it was windy every time the action ventured outdoors. With the wind effect fans working overtime, I was cold for most of the film. I didn’t mind the air shots which synched with gunfire although I’m not sure why I deserved a kidney punch from the chair during a fight scene. With the 4DX system supposedly capable of reproducing 1000 different scents, I only noticed one during my screening. I will forever associate Kirsten Dunst with urinal cakes.

4DX cinema experience

At a premium ticket price of 400 baht ($13), compared to a standard screening ticket of 230 baht ($7.50), a 4DX screening in Bangkok is hardly going to break the bank for most Australian tourists. My advice would be to give it a go but leave within the 30 minute refund window, get your money back and enjoy the film in a nice, comfortable, non-moving seat, then spend the difference on a funny t-shirt at the markets.

Published in: on February 25, 2013 at 12:01  Leave a Comment  
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100 Movies in 5 Months

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 29th May 2012.

This past week I passed an important milestone. Sure, I celebrated my 24th birthday for the second time in my life. More importantly, I watched my 100th film for the year. Not bad for five months. Notice that I use the word “watched” rather than “enjoyed”. As a lover of cinema and a budding filmmaker, I believe that there is something to be gained from every film experience, even if it is learning what not to do. For every cinematic treasure, there are quite a few trashy clunkers. Here are three of my highest rated films (all 9 out of 10 in my books).

I really dislike 3D movies at the cinema. I find the picture too dark and have a hard time following the action. However, I love my 3D TV. The backlit LCD is easy on the eyes and I don’t have to pay extra for the glasses. Two of my top five are 3D documentaries that don’t use the extra dimension as a gimmick and are well worth hunting down.

TT3D: Closer to the Edge follows the riders who put their lives at risk to compete in the notorious Isle of Man TT motorcycle race. More than 200 riders have died since the inception of this race, all on public roads. In 2010, director Richard de Aragues filmed the trials and tribulations of leading entrants Guy Martin and Ian Hutchison. I have no interest in any motor sports (I drive a hybrid) but I was absolutely gripped by the nail biting race footage where every corner might be your last. This documentary cleverly lets the riders speak naturally rather than be interviewed and by the end, you can almost understand what drives these men (and women) to compete. Almost.

Werner Herzog is one of my favourite directors. Whether tackling fact (Grizzly Man) or fiction (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans), Herzog loves the idea of man versus nature and infuses all of his work with just a touch of crazy. Cave of Forgotten Dreams focuses on the discovery of the Chauvet Cave in France. Untouched since they were sealed by a landslide 25 000 years ago, the caves contain prehistoric paintings and fossils. The delicate nature of the artefacts means that people are rarely allowed to enter the caves and Herzog’s cinematic exploration may be the only way to see them. The 3D is breathtaking and the director’s trademark Bavarian accented musings and narration is unforgettable.

Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive is a gritty and violent crime thriller that deserved more attention than it received on release last year. Starring leading man on the rise Ryan Gosling as a stuntman who moonlights a getaway driver, Drive features an eighties inspired soundtrack and a remarkable supporting cast featuring Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. The hardly original storyline of a disciplined criminal who breaks his own rules for a woman is freshened up with a tight script and expert cinematic craftsmanship from the cast and director. Not for the faint hearted, Drive will convince you that Gosling deserves his place on the A list and Winding Refn as the director to watch.

Rounding out my highest rated films are Hugo, The Hunger Games, Melancholia, The Hunter and Singin’ in the Rain.

Next week I’ll review my lowest rated films. Film 101 is already on the list and I’m on track to reach my goal of 200 movies for 2012.

My list is viewable online at http://www.imdb.com/list/e2oIoohE9ZM/

Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 09:55  Leave a Comment  
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